Diana Ross didn’t realize her hit song was a gay anthem.
Ross’ 1980 song “I’m Coming Out” was an instant classic but, according to producer Nile Rodgers, she didn’t understand the implications at first.
Rodgers got the idea for the song while at transgender nightclub GG’s Barnum Room in New York City where he was surrounded by Ross impersonators.
“All of a sudden a lightbulb goes off in my head,” he explained. “I had to go outside and call Bernard [Edwards, producer] from a telephone booth. I said, ‘Bernard, please write down the words: ‘I’m coming out.’ And then I explained the situation to him.”
Ross apparently “immediately loved the song” but felt it was about someone coming out of their shell.
“[She] didn’t understand that that was a gay thing, that that was a person saying, I’m coming out of the closet. She didn’t even get that,” Rodgers added.
It wasn’t until Ross played the song for DJ Frankie Crocker that she realized the true meaning.
“He thought that that would be Diana saying that she was gay,” Rodgers said but they convinced Ross to stick with it.
“I said, ‘Diana, this song is gonna be your coming-out song. We think of you as our black queen,’” Rodgers said. “And I even wrote a [horn] fanfare. I explained to her that it’s just like when the president comes out and they play ‘Hail to the Chief’.”